Hometown Heroes: Stephen Wheeles


The Tribune is spotlighting local law enforcement and first responders.

Whether they are police officers, firefighters, emergency medical services personnel or dispatchers, these men and women in uniform are highly trained to serve and protect their communities.

Name: Stephen Wheeles

Age: 42

Hometown: Brownstown

Residence: Jackson County

Education: Graduated from Brownstown Central High School in 1997; attended Covenant College in Lookout Mountain, Georgia, as an elementary education major; attended Oakland City University in Oakland City to study elementary education/criminal justice

Occupation: Sergeant/public information officer for the Indiana State Police Versailles Post

Years of service: 20

Career experience: I was originally assigned as a trooper in the Versailles Post working Ripley County from 2000 to 2002. I was transferred to the Indiana State Police Gaming Enforcement Division, where I enforced the gaming laws on the Grand Victoria Casino in Rising Sun from 2002 to 2005. I transferred to the Seymour Post, where I patrolled Jackson County from 2005 to 2007. I became a K-9 handler, where I patrolled with K-9 Kane from 2007 to 2015 when Kane retired. In 2010, the Seymour Post closed, and I then became a part of the Versailles Post again. In 2015, I was promoted to sergeant, where I became the public information officer for the Versailles District. I now cover the 10 counties of the Versailles District. I issue news releases, conduct public speaking engagements for ISP, conduct interviews with media outlets and operate social media accounts to send information out to the public. In my career, I have been a K-9 handler, a field training officer, a tactical intervention platoon member and a crash reconstructionist.

Awards: 2007 Trooper of the District, 2013 Lifesaving Award for freeing a woman trapped underneath a vehicle following a rollover crash on Interstate 65 at the Jackson/Bartholomew county line, 2016 Law Enforcement Commendation Award from the Sons of the American Revolution and 2019 Bronze Star for entering water to free a woman trapped in a sinking vehicle

What made you want to become a first responder?

I became interested in becoming a police officer when I was in college. I joined a volunteer fire department at that time, which increased my interest in becoming a first responder as a career. Law enforcement interested me because I liked the idea of every day being a little different from the day before. I wanted a job that wouldn’t be boring. I also really wanted to make a difference in the community I live.

Did you have any influences in choosing your career?

I have a brother and an uncle who were both in law enforcement at the time I was choosing a career. I also had friends on the Oakland City Police Department who I met during my time on the fire department there. While I was going through the Indiana State Police hiring process, Officer Michael Deno, a good friend of mine on the OCPD, was shot and killed in the line of duty. All of these people I knew influenced my decision to pursue the career.

What do you like about your current position?

My current position as the public information officer is a rewarding one. I enjoy being able to speak with the public and the media to really show people the good things that police officers are doing all across the country every day. I also feel it’s important to use technology, such as social media, to provide the public with crucial information that will keep them safe and informed. I know from my experience that most police officers by nature do not really want special recognition for the good things they do. I feel it’s important to often be their voice so the public knows how important our police officers are to our communities.

What does it mean to you to serve your community and help people?

I really enjoy the satisfaction of helping people. Often, police officers are dealing with people who are having the worst day of their lives. Police officers are often the calming voice in traumatic situations, and it feels good to help people make it through difficult times.

Do you have any hobbies outside of your day job?

Going to my kids’ activities and sporting events, riding ATVs and playing ukulele and bass guitar in the church band.

Favorite music genres: ’80s/’90s alternative/rock (I like Def Leppard, Boston, Journey, Goo Goo Dolls) and contemporary Christian

Favorite foods: Tacos, pizza and cheesecake

Favorite sports teams: St. Louis Blues, St. Louis Cardinals and Hickory Huskers

Favorite vacation spot: Cabins we own in the Pennsylvania mountains

Best advice: It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice

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